Calif. reassessing as recycling falls short
Plastics recycling has been on the public-policy back burner for a few years, but get ready for some excitement. It looks like things are heating up again in California.
The California Integrated Waste Management Board reopened the issue Jan. 28, when it ruled that plastic containers did not meet recycling rate goals in 1996.
Only 23.2 percent of the state's plastic containers were recycled in '96; the target was 25 percent. PET bottles, however, fell way short of their 55 percent goal — only 35.9 percent were recycled, according to CIWMB.
These goals were not set impossibly high. You'll recall that way back in 1991, the plastics industry voluntarily set a 25 percent recycling rate goal. Industry probably will urge the California board to reconsider the ruling. Meanwhile, it makes sense for both the board and the plastics industry to find a way to meet the goals.
If plastics missed the mark in 1996, it's likely the data will show that it failed again in 1997. And plastics recycling isn't off to a running start in 1998, either.
Failure to meet the mandated rates could mean fines of as much as $150,000 for some firms. That's not huge in terms of dollars, but the bad publicity for the plastics industry could be much costlier.
The plastics industry once believed a 25 percent recycling rate was attainable. It still is, of course. If CIWMB is right and industry hasn't reached that mark yet, then both sides need to reach an agreement on what needs to be done to get there. The board will focus on developing markets for recycled plastics.
That's an important part of the equation, but it will not work without additional effort. Improving the recycling rate is likely to require recommitment to the goal on behalf of not just the industry, but also the state, its municipalities, and consumers.
Molders' deals signal new age in computers
When customers say jump, plastics processors typically reply: How high?
The latest example: In recent weeks five injection molders have inked deals with metal stamping firms. The common catalyst seems to be an effort to please computer industry customers like Dell Computer Corp. Original equipment manufacturers are singing a familiar refrain: Consolidate our supply base, reduce production cycles, and above all, cut costs.
Where will the trend go? It's too soon to know, but don't be surprised if these integrated suppliers end up designing, assembling and shipping complete computer workstations. That would leave the OEMs to research, develop and market next-generation products — turning all the dirty-fingernail work over to their suppliers. In fact, some processors already are moving in that direction.
It's an exciting time for suppliers to the industry. And given that other countries covet the strong U.S. personal computer industry, it may be that suppliers and OEMs are fighting for their own future survival.